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Finding the middle ground in 7th grade

“It’s 7:30am!” I call out to my oldest son, meaning that it’s time to go.

“Are your books packed?” I follow up when I receive no reply.

“Are you ready?” I shout, already annoyed on at least three levels. First, I am before coffee and racing through the morning routine of lunches and whatnot. Second, there is a binder on the dining room table that I know needs to be packed away in his book bag where I have already placed his charged phone (your welcome) and his lunch (your welcome again) and third, my son doesn’t freaking answer me.

Slowly he saunters into the kitchen. His sneakers aren’t on.

I grit my teeth, corralling my tongue, “Baby, I called you three times and you’re not ready.”

“What do you mean?” His voice flares a notch, “I’m ready.”

I point to the book lying open on the table.

“Oh my God, mom!” He huffs, “That will take like one second!”  He moves in on the binder and shoves it in his bag. He forces the zipper closed, jerks his head to the side to get the hair out of his face just enough so I can catch a glimpse of his rolling eyes. “See!” he challenges.

Yeah I see. I see he needs a haircut because even though he wants long hair, my boy doesn’t want to take the effort to use a comb or a little water or gel to make it look more like hair and less like a mop. I see that he needs to straighten his shorts, put on his sneakers, grab a zip-up jacket, and that we have very different ideas about what being ‘ready’ means.

I realize that this moment hits the crux of our relationship issues for the last year or so. I ask him questions he doesn’t want to answer and ask him to do things he doesn’t want to do… “What’s taking you so long? Put away your phone. Don’t you see your friends look people in the eye? Can you not forget your  book/sweatshirt/shoes/whatever? Is your homework done? Must you jump around like a puppy? No one else has blah blah blah. Did you do this that and the other thing…?”

It’s my job, of course, to help this growing up person act more grown up, to follow certain rules of behavior. Simple ones like responding when someone speaks to you, being respectful, taking pride in his appearance or being responsible to more complex ones like standing up for what he believes in, being extra kind for no reason and every reason or getting out of his comfort zone to try new things.

But what I also realize is that my wanting to help prepare him for being an adult is at odds with the person who he is. He is not a grown up yet. He is a barely a teen who has matured and progressed tremendously in the past year. He may not have his back pack ready in the morning on my clock, but he is doing awesome in every class at school. He plays team sports year round. He is practicing for his upcoming Bar Mitzvah. He is fumbling through the social tornado which is Middle School. He still generally always has a smile on his face.

When we get into the car I ask him if he’s got everything.

“Yeah,” he answers without thinking.

“Your phone?” I prompt, forcing him to double check his bag. I’m being a bit of an ass. I know it’s in there, but I want to remind him that he doesn’t know. That he needs to be more prepared.

Growing up isn’t easy or immediate. Every day there are moments that make me quietly cheer and setbacks that make my eye twitch in frustration. It’s an entertaining, maddening road from here to adulthood, but it’s a process that necessitates patience and understanding. It can’t and shouldn’t be rushed, although I often have to remind myself.

After searching around, my son pulls out his phone from his backpack and I can see the boyish relief behind the teenage smirk.

He’s got it.

But we won’t really know until tomorrow.

Meeting in the middle

My baby, baby no more

 

 

Stomach Virus – You’re bugging me

There’s no one at our bus stop.

The yellow beast chugs toward the corner, heaving to a stop. Its loud industrial honk blares through the neighborhood three times before the sliding doors pull closed on no one and the machine ambles forward, on to the next street where a pile of children push each other and laugh and fight with delightful pre-school energy, straining their necks for that glimpse of yellow but also hoping never to see it.

The day is brisk and vibrant with shards of sun lighting the way. At the door, I have to shield my eyes from its brightness. I can’t believe how fresh the air feels, how invigorating, how healthy. I suck a deep breath in, letting it center me with its crisp cleanness, hoping it will help prepare me for my day. Greedily, I take another moment and another sublime breath.

My house reeks of stale and sick, sapped of energy and hope, piles of soiled laundry, children crying, husband lying in bed moaning. An alternate world exists outside this house, one full of life, with everyday problems and everyday troubles – Did you finish your homework, Will you stop torturing your brother, Should we have tacos for dinner or chicken cutlets. It all seems so bright and entertaining in the throes of misery.

I am one of the infected and so I must shut myself away from the outside world. I must lay on couches and beds, wrapped in blankets shivering, close to the cool, lovely bathroom tile, the swirl of infection billowing in the air.

“Mama?” I hear, but I can barely lift my head to address him.

“Coming,” I muster and lift my body, heavy with the effort of sickness, but weak with emptiness over to where he huddles.

“What can I do for you baby?” I ask, wanting to die, wanting not to catch any more of what he has or to give any bit of what I have.

“Water,” he croaks, “And hugs,”

The water is easy and he takes a halting sip before lying down again spent. In place of hugs, I curl up in his bed around his feet.

Now 36 hours later, my husband is off to work armed with a bottle of Pepto, Tylenol and a Ginger Ale and two out of three of my boys are in school. I am slowly recuperating. I know because I am actually thinking about lunch although not sure if I can actually stomach anything. Also, a shower. When before the idea seemed a fantasy I didn’t even have the energy to want, I am now craving it with every inch of my crawling skin.

My middle son relaxes on the couch complaining of a headache but asking to play a board game, and my cleaning ladies are just finishing up removing all toxicity from our house; the smell of organic chemicals a sonnet to my sniffer.

They leave and I toss the last load of laundry into the machine. Over the last few days, I have successfully washed every fabric in my house. I crack the windows to let the fresh air in, look over to my boy and breathe a little easier. We’ve made it to the other side. “Can I get you something?” I ask, feeling his head which seems slightly warm.

He gives me a wan, funny smile like he’s not sure how he wants to answer and then throws up all over me.

 

He's feeling much better now.

Feeling much better now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting to the party is not half the fun

We’re going to a party! We’re going to a party!

We need to be in temple by 10:30am but I have an appointment at the hair place to blow out my curly curls and get trims for my boys at 9am. It’s 8:15am. We have a half an hour to get out of the house.

“These pants are too tight!” My son yells, and tosses them out of his room into the hall. I hop over, pulling up my tights as I go and get smacked in the face with the offending black pants.

“Didn’t you wear these last week?” I ask, untangling the inside out legs and searching for the tag. Not that it matters. At almost 13, things that fit one week, no longer fit the next.

“I’m ready!” My middle son announces; walking past in a shirt clearly buttoned by a drunk.

“Um, let me help you,” I say, starting to undo and redo. Another pair of pants flies out of my oldest son’s room and I hear him stomping around angrily.

My 7 year-old dances by in his pajamas. “Mommy! Watch my cartwheel!”

“Get dressed,” I order. “No cartwheels now. We’re late.”

I run back into my room to fix myself. My husband emerges from our closet. “This good?” he asks, holding a blue tie against his grey shirt.

I nod that it’s fine and run into the bathroom to play around with some make up my mother brought over.

“I know you like to be ‘natural’, but just something to brighten your eyes? And skin. And maybe a little lipstick?” She suggested so coyly, you barely knew you were being strong armed until you were pinned. Later, I would use a very similar tone trying to convince my son that slightly shorter hair looks better than never combed hair.

“I know what I’m doing,” I had snapped, and am happy she’s not here now to watch me put lip liner under my eyes.

We’re going to a party! We’re going to a party!

“I’m hungry!” My middle son barges in and announces as I’m struggling to close the clasp on my necklace.

“Get yourself some cereal. I need to get dressed.”

“I don’t want cereal,” he says. “I want pancakes.”

I look at him dumbfounded. Seriously?  “I’m not making pancakes right now.”

“Forget it! I’m not eating!” He huffs and storms out as my 12 year old storms in. He is frustrated to the point of tears.

I feel his pain.

“I’ll find you something. I promise. Just give me five minutes?” I ask, looking hopefully and reassuringly into his stressed face.

He calms down, gives me a hug and a blessed five minute reprieve to get myself together so we can get to the hair place and then to the temple for the b’nai (double) bar mitvah and then to the other one across town and the ensuing parties that follow.

“It’s raining out!” I hear my husband yell and a glance out the window confirms it. Freaking great. Did I mention the blow out for the curly hair?

My 7 year old cartwheels past, wearing only his Skylander undies.

We’d better get to that party soon. I need a drink.

Actual discarded pants

Actual discarded pants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You really can’t dance in glass slippers

I can’t think.

My oldest, middle and youngest sons all have friends over. They are downstairs playing basketball. Boom boom boom. They are up in the living room playing SmashBrother on the WiiU while rummaging through leftover Valentine’s chocolates. Munch munch munch. They are up and down the stairs playing hide and seek. Stomp stomp stomp.

I go around picking up empty crushed water bottles and discarded heart boxes and am happy to find a few chocolates half hidden under the crinkly brown paper shells. On closer inspection, I notice they all have little finger indentures revealing brightly colored cream inside. Orange. Ugh.

The boys are loud, squealing with delight as they find each other hidden behind furniture and under tables, and they are loud, yelling with outrage over a missed turn on the X Box or a controversial point.

But they aren’t the reason for my poor cognitive functions.

I have a headache.

I don’t have a headache.

I have stress.

Jeez, I’m so dramatic. I don’t have so much stress. I live a cushy life, baking brownies for my kids, volunteering at the schools, watching their sport games and writing in between.  Occasionally I meet a friend for sushi lunch and indulge in a massage. I am like a princess. Cinderella? I do have an awful lot of laundry. Snow White? There are all those little people I cater to. Fiona? Well, I’ll just leave that one to your imagination.

No. I am princess Ice Scream Mama and my life is a fairy tale in so many ways but alas every fairy tale must have its wolf.

His name is dad.

More fiery than a dragon. More insecure than an evil queen. More suffering than any beast. He is dangerous and inconsistent. He is desperate for sorcerer’s magic potion or the kiss of true love. Who could blame him? They have the power to heal even the most wounded souls.  If you just click your heels and believe…

I wish I could but I lost my ruby red slippers trying to climb out of the tower I’ve been imprisoned for decades. If only I could let down my hair and just let it go, but this beanstalk isn’t going to climb itself. The sky is falling, the woods grow dark and it’s a long way up to a giant problem and believe me there are no golden harps to steal. Not that I would. Jack is a thieving, greedy pig.

Once upon a time I believed in magic, but now know that happily ever after is about acceptance and compromise, finding the good in the bad, not running away from either the old man and the old woman who want to save you, or the farmers, the bear and the fox who want to eat you. It’s about facing the truths in life and appreciating the reality, not the fantasy, but still leaving room to dream.

But what am I saying?

It’s all the noise.

I make no sense.

I think.

Dang! This thing doesn't work!

Dang! I need a new wand!

*Hey all, give a click here and check out my original essay up on Mamalode, A Mother of Mama’s Boys Grows Up. 🙂

For Today’s Kids, Distraction is the New Concentration

“I’m lightening on my feet! I’m walking cross the street, yeah yeah!” My middle son belts out, semi-massacring a Taylor Swift song as he head bobs and taps his pencil on the kitchen table.

He’s supposed to be doing his homework.

“I’m doing it!” He practically sneers and for effect writes one of his spelling words ‘demonstrate’ down on his paper. He presses the pencil point over the word a number of times ‘demonstrating’ his point.

I stand corrected. He is doing his homework, just very slowly in between singing songs, dancing, asking random questions and going to the bathroom.

“I’m writing this so neat,” he belts out. “I want something more to eat. Yeah yeah.”

“Can you please stop?” I ask through grated teeth. “Please,” I implore.

But he doesn’t stop and it takes an amazing amount of patience, lost tooth enamel and unnecessary calories consumed in rapid frustrated spoons to the ice cream tub before he finally finishes the homework that I believe could have been completed in half the time if not for the musical interludes.

It crosses my mind, not for the first time, that he’s trying his best to annoy me, but then his older brother saunters in, flips open his loose leaf and starts making weird noises which I believe is him rapping a beat but sounds more like farting of the mouth.

“Baby?” I question, dumbfounded. “What’s with all the annoying noise? I thought you had to study.”

“I am studying,” He says smiling charmingly and then resumes tapping and rapping as he reads.

I try to ignore him but all the noise is completely distracting and I’m just cooking dinner. How do they concentrate with all the feet stomping, singing, tapping and blurting of strange noises? They can’t even seem to sit. They prefer standing around a chair or on the chair, anywhere but in the chair.

I get media multi-tasking. Working and writing at the computer daily, I do it myself. I write a good paragraph, I check Facebook. I send out some queries, I write a text. I know that I am constantly looking for a little distraction at the detriment of my work, which is why I don’t allow my kids near their devices or unnecessary screens while doing homework or studying. But even without all the ‘iSores’, my kids seem to have their own personal distraction mechanism. And no it isn’t me. It’s themselves.

Maybe in this day and age, children’s brains work differently. They are so used to multiple stimuli that they need some distraction to concentrate, even if it’s only with their own brains. I find it really hard to believe, but when I test my son on his upcoming test, he nails it and my other son’s homework is perfectly done as well.

Dinner on the other hand is a little overcooked. Maybe I’m the one not paying attention.

Whatever. I’m just gonna shake it off. Shake it off.

Homework done. Time to put up those feet for some distraction that he can really focus on.

Homework’s done. Now it’s time to really focus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even when your heart stops, the clock keeps ticking

“How much longer?!” My 7 year-old whines, even though we’ve only just arrived.

I check the car clock. 5:17pm. “Any minute now,” I say, watching a smattering of kids emerge from the Middle School gym doors.

We are right on time, actually ahead of schedule since I usually receive my 12 year-old’s ‘pick me up’ call at around 5:20pm. Tonight is one of those nights where the clock is ticking harder and faster than Marisa Tomei’s from My Cousin Vinny, although unless you’re over 40 you probably won’t know anything about that.

Basically, I need to pick up my 9 year-old from Hebrew School by 6pm, drop the 12 year-old off, and then shoot over to the 9 year-old’s basketball game from 6:30-7:30pm. Then the 12 year-old gets picked up at 8:10pm and goes straight to his basketball game from 8:30-930pm, but by then my husband has taken over and I’m home with the younger ones running in different circles.

“This is taking forever!” My little one grumbles. I don’t begrudge him. As the youngest, he’s a semi-hostile member of Team Mommy, we who schlep and spectate.

5:24pm.

Where is he? Usually he’s out by now. I had hoped to let them eat at Smashburger, but now it’ll probably be a car picnic in the Temple parking lot. Annoying. I send him a quick text. “Outside waiting.”

5:26pm.

The girls basketball and boys wrestling teams also let out and there is a steady stream of sweaty young teens. I squint to see if there’s anyone I know, but it is dusk and all I can make out is that they are all dressed inappropriately for winter.

5:27pm.

An uncomfortable thought creeps into my head. Typically, between finishing classes at 3:10pm and heading to the gym, he sends me a quick text “Going to volleyball”, but today he didn’t check in.

5:28pm.

“I’m soooo hungry!” My 7 year-old complains over and over but it folds into my rising anxiety.

5:29pm.

A few familiar looking boys come out. I open my window to ask if they’ve seen my son, but they are engaged with each other and I am embarrassed to interrupt and embarrass my son by being the crazy mom which I am totally being.

5:30pm.

He’s barely even late, I scold myself. What is wrong with my brain?!

5:31pm.

It is growing dark. The parking lot slows to an unsettling quiet. Kids still fill the gym anteroom waiting for their rides but the heavy doors swing open on slower intervals, like when you put the window washers on low.

5:32pm.

Why didn’t he text earlier? Why hasn’t he texted now? I call but it goes to his voicemail, which isn’t even set up. I call again. And again.

5:33pm.

My neck strains to see inside the school. My hand grips the door handle ready to jump out. Where? Where?

5:34pm.

There. Right there. Smile sweet as melted sugar and posture relaxed as a lazy bear, he saunters over. Of course. I breathe. Of course.

“Finally!” My youngest huffs, “I’m soo hungry!”

“Sorry, mama,” he says, throwing himself and his over-sized backpack into the car. “Practice ran a little late and then I forgot my book.”

5:35pm.

I tousle his hair and warmly chastise him about not checking in as I simultaneously throw the car in gear and set off to Smashburger, the pickups, drop offs and all the rest, more keenly aware than ever that every minute counts.

 

IMG_9115

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resolutions For My Children

This year I didn’t make any resolutions. Frankly I didn’t need the pressure, and really I’m working every day on improvement – okay, most days – okay, days where the stars align, the kids do as I say, there’s plenty of ice cream and it’s sunny out. What?! It happens.

I would however like my children to make some changes that would improve my life much more than any resolution I could possibly make for myself. Boys, are you listening? BOYS! Sigh. Well, that brings me to their first resolution…

Listen up! Why do I have to say, “I put your clothes in your room” for you to come up to me not five minutes later and innocently ask, “Where are my clothes?”  And how many times do I have to rip devices from hands, snap close books or shut off shows? Just take a second, look my way and say, “Okay mom, got it.” And seriously do I have to ask you to do the recyclables five times? Five! Why?Why?Why?Why?Why? Annoying, isn’t it?

Give me a minute. Okay, seriously, stop counting to 60. I really mean let me finish what I’m doing no matter how long it takes, a minute or a half hour. Like right now, extremely persistent 7 year-old who absolutely must play a game with me right this very second. Kid, please, we just played cards and Mario and I got you a snack and had a serious conversation about how you were going to set up your Legos, but now you need to just give me a minute.

Time for bed. When I’m done for the day, I am truly done. I’m not kidding. I don’t want any more requests for snacks, drinks, one more show or let’s have a heart to heart about which animal is truly your favorite. I want bed. I want it for you. I want it for me. I want it now. So go the fudgecakes to sleep.

Trust yourself. It can be the hardest thing to do, especially with a bunch of peer eyes staring you down, pressuring you into submission. But you’re good and smart and you know what’s right, so listen to yourself. I promise you’ll make plenty of mistakes on your own. There’s no need to make your friend’s mistakes as well. Trust me.

Just Stop. “Mom! He did this! Mom! He did it first! Mom! He’s bothering me!…” Guys, I don’t know how to express, first, how annoying you annoying each other can be for me and second, how the brothers you’re going out of your way to torture are really and truly your best friends in this life. No one will have your back like they will. No one will know you like they will. No one will really be there for you like they will.  So give each other a break (not the arm kind), and throw each other a kind word instead of under the bus.

And just to cover my bases, please also resolve to never drink and drive, sky dive, move to another country, marry someone I don’t like or join the circus. And even though I intend to never make resolutions again, I now plan to make a list for you guys every year. It’s my last resolution!

Luckily, you know how well I do with those.

Happiest 2015! xoxo Ice Scream Mama, Papa and the Sugar Babies.

Happiest 2015! xoxo
Ice Scream Mama, Papa and the Sugar Babies.

 

*Hey, if you have a moment, please give a quick click and check out my first essay up on Mamalode called Surviving the Supermarket. If I were to make any resolution it would be to never take all three of my boys with me to the supermarket ever again.